FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. What often makes compelling television is the ability to take viewers where they can’t otherwise go.
Imagine what it would be like on the airplane as the New England Patriots traveled to Super Bowl LI, with quarterback Tom Brady in an aisle seat and owner Robert Kraft in the window seat in the same row. Or in the meeting room as Patriots offensive coaches go over red zone plans for a divisional round playoff game against the Houston Texans, or when defensive coaches receive an advance scouting report from director of pro personnel Dave Ziegler on the Atlanta Falcons to kick off game-plan preparations for Super Bowl LI.
The imagination is no longer required, as this is the essence of “3 Games to Glory V”, which will be released May 2 and available on Blu-Ray, digital download and DVD.
I received a sneak preview of part of the film, which is co-produced by NFL Films and Kraft Sports Productions, and here is one example of the unique behind-the-scenes stuff that makes it a must-have for Patriots fans:
It was the day players were picking up their Super Bowl LI tickets, with ticket manager Bryan Flaherty reminding everyone the cost would be deducted from their next paycheck. Reaction from players at the cost of the tickets was humorous, and when cornerback Malcolm Butler received his allotment, Flaherty said with a touch of humor, “I don’t want to be getting any calls from the family on game day this year.”
That drew a “You got me good” reaction from Butler, the Super Bowl XLIX hero.
“The last thing I say after they sign the paperwork and they are on their way is ‘Don’t lose the tickets!’,” Flaherty says in “3 Games to Glory V.”
"Two years ago, Sunday, a couple hours before the game, I’m on the bus getting ready to head over to the team headquarters thinking that my day is over, my work is over, and I get a call from someone saying they found two Super Bowl [XLIX] tickets and they needed to know who they are for. I have to log in to a computer from one of our IT guys, and lo and behold it was Malcolm Butler's mom.
“It’s a good thing she made it to the game.”
Who knew that Butler’s mom almost missed out on being in the stands for her son’s life-altering, Super Bowl-saving interception?
In addition to stories such as that, “3 Games to Glory V” includes a never-seen-before Bill Belichick breakdown of key plays from Super Bowl LI; mic’d up features from the playoffs with Julian Edelman, Dont'a Hightower and LeGarrette Blount; a Super Bowl parade feature; behind-the-scenes footage from the Patriots’ 2001 Super Bowl reunion party; a panel discussion on which of the franchise’s five Super Bowl victories ranks No. 1; and every play from each of the team’s three postseason victories edited in a way that makes the almost seven hours of content move at the pace of the team’s potent hurry-up offense.
2. As for Butler’s immediate future with the team, here is my read on the situation: If he’s going to be traded, this is the week for it to happen, and it will essentially come down to whether the Saints are willing to trade their late first-round pick (32) or a different package of a high second-rounder (42) combined with another pick (Saints have 76, 103, 196, 229), with the chance of possibly picking up a later-round selection in that scenario. The value will have to be there for the Patriots, who I don’t sense have any qualms about having Butler back on his $3.91 million restricted free-agent tender. Keeping Butler in the short-term isn’t the issue; it’s that the sides see things differently on a potential long-term deal, and that’s the only reason a trade possibility has been considered, similar to Chandler Jones last year.
3. Did You Know: The Patriots had 111 practices last season, which was Belichick’s message to players at the end of their final Super Bowl LI practice in Houston: “This is it. This is what we did everything for.” Another gem from “3 Games To Glory V”.
4. How does the release of the NFL schedule provide a boost for the airline industry, especially in Boston? I saw one example first-hand Thursday afternoon when forecasting a Week 2 Patriots at Saints game would be announced later that night. A round-trip, non-stop Boston-to-New Orleans ticket at that time was $323. By the time the schedule was released at 8 p.m. that night, the same ticket had doubled in price to $623. Then when I checked Saturday what the same ticket would cost, the return leg was already sold out. Unreal. Just unreal.
5. Remember the story leading into Super Bowl LI about how owners Robert Kraft and Arthur Blank each pledged $51,000, with the winning owner getting to choose the charity to direct the money? Here’s a neat follow-up: Blank had his check delivered to the Patriots within days after the game, and Kraft chose Team Impact -- co-founded by his son, Dan -- as the beneficiary of the $102,000. Team Impact, which has its annual gala in Boston on Wednesday night (at which the $102,000 donation will be recognized), aims to improve “the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses through the power of team.” Here is one example of how that happens, with one of the most courageous, inspiring youngsters I know, Ari Schultz.
6. Patriots running back math: The common thread between the one-year contract signed by Rex Burkhead, the three-year extension inked by James White and the two-year offer sheet the Patriots drew up for Buffalo’s Mike Gillislee is that each averaged slightly more than $3 million per season in maximum value. It might be a coincidence. Then again, it might be a good example of how the Patriots have a specific figure in mind that they are willing to pay a certain position as they build their overall roster, and they stay close to it.
7. As for Gillislee, Monday is the deadline for the Bills to decide whether to match the Patriots’ two-year, $6.4 million offer, or receive a fifth-round pick in return. If you’re Bills owner Terry Pegula and you watched in 2016 as your organization lost productive receiver Chris Hogan to the divisional-rival Patriots (with no compensation in return) over a low restricted free-agent tender offer, is this one you step in on and ask some hard questions to your football folks before lightning strikes twice? Just a thought.
8. Four leftovers from the Patriots’ trip to the White House on Wednesday:
Nice to see Jabaal Sheard (now with the Colts) back with his former teammates. Sheard’s 2016 season was up and down, and after he was a healthy scratch for a Nov. 20 game in San Francisco, there was some question as to how things would unfold with him. He finished strong (his best game might have been Super Bowl LI) and obviously didn’t let that affect him wanting to experience a White House celebration.
In 2002, the Patriots had 48 players present for the White House ceremony, followed by 36 in 2004, 27 in 2005, about 50 in 2015 and 34 in 2017. Reasons that players don’t attend vary and often involve a scheduling conflict.
Players on the 2016 active roster who didn’t attend the ceremony in 2017: Punter Ryan Allen, receivers Danny Amendola and Michael Floyd, tight end Martellus Bennett, running backs LeGarrette Blount, James White, Brandon Bolden and Dion Lewis, quarterback Tom Brady, defensive tackles Alan Branch, Malcom Brown and Vincent Valentine, cornerbacks Malcolm Butler, Cyrus Jones and Logan Ryan, safeties Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon and Devin McCourty, linebacker Dont'a Hightower, defensive end Chris Long, guard Shaq Mason and offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle.
9. It hardly affected his thrilling Super Bowl LI hangover, but cornerback Logan Ryan was surprised when he received a $9,115 fine from the NFL for unnecessary roughness in the game. Ryan, now with the Titans after inking a three-year, $30 million free-agent deal, told ESPN.com Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky he couldn’t even recall the play that would have led to the fine and that he believes fines like that are too extreme. Ryan wasn’t penalized in the game.
10. In 2016, draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki had said this about NC State offensive lineman Joe Thuney: “Looks destined for a role with a zone-blocking team like the Patriots.” He nailed it, as the Patriots selected Thuney in the third round (No. 78). Thuney was one of the most productive rookies of the entire NFL class, missing just four snaps all season. With that as a springboard, here is one nugget from Nawrocki’s 2017 draft preview with a Patriots twist: He sees a lot of Shea McClellin in Wisconsin linebacker/defensive end T.J Watt, the brother of J.J. Watt. Nawrocki writes, “He could evolve into a very dependable, productive pro if used to accentuate his strengths the way McClellin is in New England.” Might the Patriots be interested? That will be a fun one to monitor.